Taylor Paige Winfield
Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationPrinceton U.
Grant numberGr. 9748
Approve DateOctober 23, 2018
Project TitleWinfield, Taylor P., Princeton U., Princeton, NJ - To aid research on 'Inscribing Identites on Uniformed Bodies,' supervised by Dr. Robert Wuthnow
Preliminary abstract: My dissertation investigates identity (re)formation in institutional settings where individuals have limited control over their bodies. I study the experience of incoming cadets at the United States Military Academy Preparatory School. I illuminate how cadets, whose civilian identities are constrained by a regimented institutional context, re-fashion personal self-definitions and routines. How do they experience trading in their unique clothes for uniforms, their preferred food for mess halls meals, and individualized routines for rigid schedules? How do institutional authorities address questions of alignment and conflict regarding identities, and what is the role of external political pressure in this process? Under what circumstances is agreement between opposing identities achieved, negotiated or left unresolved? Although all incoming recruits to West Point face these questions, my study shines light on how ethnic, gender, class, sexual, and religious identities shape the resocialization process. The study is set in the context of militarization in the United States, in which the military and the state are intimately intertwined. I expand scholarship on militarization and institutional control by providing ethnographic evidence of how the military reshapes incoming minority soldiers. I build upon embodiment literature in order to explore what happens to identity when individuals are forced to change their bodily techniques. I contribute to critical race and gender theory through exploring the how sexual and racial ideologies function in the military and contribute to what it means to be a good soldier. Approaching military socialization with a feminist curiosity will lead to insight into power, control, and the reproduction of structural inequalities within the institution.